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People of Zero To Engineer: Marcus Mapes

People of Zero To Engineer: Marcus Mapes

Growing up, I had no IT education at all, but I did have some friends that were computer enthusiasts that showed me some things, and that’s what initially got me interested in IT in the first place. They could put together computers and fix so many problems, and even though we were just kids in middle school, they could already do all these cool things, and I couldn’t and want to be able to.

This got me interested, but I actually didn’t take any steps towards it until just shy of a year ago. I was in the Marine Core, but was on a Navy ship for that deployment, and have been in the Marine Core for coming up 5 years now, and my contract is just ending now. I read a very old book, and was just going on my second deployment and figured that I could pick up a bunch of ebooks and learn something when I had downtime on the ship, and downloaded ‘Introduction to Networking, how the internet works’ by Charles R Severance, and it talks about old school thick-net, thin-net stuff and token ring and found it cool, now I actually know how data goes from your screen and goes across the world to someone else’s computer. I started reading more into it and got genuinely interested, and I decided when I got back from deployment, that I would look into pursuing an education.

I started doing college online at American Intercontinental University to get a Degree in a Bachelors in Science and Information Technology with the specialization in Networking, and got in, which was surprising because when I was in high school, I didn’t do very good and barely got enough credits to graduate. Their online program was pretty good and very easy, with 6 classes, two of them being IT related, and I had got a 4.0 GPA for the first time in my life, and nailed all those classes with straight As. I didn’t get too far because I found NexGenT and figured it was probably going to teach me a lot more than what college would; which turned out to be absolutely true.

I was just scrolling down through Facebook and saw an advert from NexGenT and it said Network+ course only $10, checked it out and did almost all of it. I was looking into what else NexGenT offered, and they had all these success stories about people that had either never went to college and did the program and ended up being successful. Some of them did go to college and racked up a lot of debt and went through the program and claimed that they learned more than they ever learned in college. It’s like they get down to the stuff that you will actually be doing, and that’s the juicy stuff that I want to learn.

Even through the Marine Corps, learning my job, they put you through schools to learn how to do it, but realistically you don’t really learn it until you are actually get there, and it’s almost a waste of time. When I started reading those stories, I was like you know what, maybe this is something. Looking forward, this can maybe teach me something very practical, and maybe I will be able to get a job out of it way sooner and be able to actually start my career, and since I was in the military, I was able to get half off, and decided to give it a shot, and it was definitely worth it as I landed a job while only in phase 2 of the program.

My job position is called Netops Lead Mid, and it is at a contracting company called Avening Tech, and they work under the main contractor Perspecta, which is the leading contract company that serves as the IT for the Marine Corps, and NexGenT is the major factor that got me this position.

It was very circumstantial how I was able to land a job. The western regional manager for Perspecta happened to be in the second day I was shadowing employees there, and I had just helped their team fix a network issue, and they saw that I actually knew some of the command line and knew what to look for. And, there were different questions that we were asking each other, and they seemed to get the understanding that I had a general idea of what was going on and that I knew what I was doing. The supervisors here had referred me to this regional manager since he was there that day, so he pulled me aside and offered me a job. But that wouldn’t have happened had I not got this knowledge from NexGenT. I could have tried to do it without NexGenT, but you can’t trust the information online, and you have to look at multiple places to get all of the information. With NexGenT, they have everything there and easy to follow, and knew exactly how to teach it from zero to engineer level.

I would like to be a senior network engineer and move up and I am looking to do ICND2 and then CCNP right after, and would definitely recommend the Full Stack Program. The group coaching makes all the difference, and really helps you to understand things by asking questions and get fast responses from subject matter experts, and it’s dummy proof.

 

People of Zero To Engineer: Chris Mendez

People of Zero To Engineer: Chris Mendez

Being completely immersed and productive perfectly sums up my college learning experience. I attended the University of Phoenix and graduated with a B.S. in IT and Software engineering. 90% of my time was spent doing online coursework, while the other 10% was used trying to understand the previous 90%. While I enjoyed it, I wish I would have spent more time gaining hands-on experience.

I applied to numerous jobs after graduating and realized how important hands-on experience was compared to the school I went to or the degree I earned. It’s ironic how every employer wants hands-on experience but none are willing to give it to you. The only job I was offered was as a help-desk tech at a local IT company, which got acquired and resulted in my swift lay-off. After many desktop support and helpdesk roles I saw NexGenT’s Zero To Engineer ad on Instagram and realized that I could be doing so much more with my career.

I enrolled into Zero to Engineer because of Terry’s message to “invest in your career and education”. That
message really resonated with me and I believed in it because he had done all this before and was extremely successful.

Zero to Engineer gave me a million times more than what I expected, and the experience was beyond phenomenal. Before ZTE I didn’t even know that switches and routers had command lines. The FSNA project was a beast in itself and I remember re-watching every video in the module.

ZTE gave me the motivation and confidence to go the extra mile at work. Senior management took notice and I was asked to collaborate and work on many new projects. The tools, protocols, and skills I learned in ZTE became the foundation I needed to complete most of those projects. If I only knew about the networking world earlier I would have joined Zero to Engineer sooner.

I recently accepted a new job offer and am currently working on a broad range of networks in a government office as a Network Administrator for the City of Santa Ana. This new job gave me a 50% pay-bump and I can’t thank the Zero to Engineer program enough for helping me achieve this milestone.

My ultimate career goal is to become a senior engineer and with Terry and his team at my side, I know I’ll achieve my goal in no time.

People of Zero To Engineer: Chris Evans

People of Zero To Engineer: Chris Evans

Education has always been the primary avenue I’ve chosen to progress my career. Shortly after earning my associate’s degree, I started working as a Business Analyst making $29k/year for Assurant. Budgets and data analysis came easy to me, but after 7 years I just couldn’t stay in the same place anymore. I had to change careers and start looking for other exciting opportunities where I could
learn and grow.

I’ve always been fond of IT, but didn’t have a way to break into the industry. So I left my $48k/year salary at Assurant and enrolled as a full-time student in the computer science program at Bowling Green State. Then the financial crisis hit in 2008 and my time at Bowling Green was cut short. I never finished my degree because I couldn’t renew my student loans. Day by day my financial situation got worse and I needed to do something quick.

Fortunately for me, a friend from Bowling Green landed me a job at a start-up he worked for called Consumer Choice Marketing. In terms of compensation, Consumer Choice was stingy, but times were tough and $35k/year salary was better than being unemployed. What I wasn’t expecting was my friend leaving the company so fast, which forced me into his open position as an IT Manager.

With no prior IT experience, I was suddenly responsible for the entire IT department. A majority of my troubleshooting techniques involved unplugging/plugging cables or calling external consultants for help. Things went surprisingly well until we upgraded our old Linksys to a new Cisco 2901 industrial router. I obviously had no clue when it came to setting up the router so I called a consultant again.

I closely watched the consultant configure the router and I was hooked. Without even knowing what I was looking for I started diligently researching networking programs. I had no plan on how to go about the networking career path, but I knew I wanted to do what the consultant was doing. After watching tons of online videos and buying expensive learning materials for certs, I knew I was lost. Turning to education this time around seemed like a bad idea, until I came across the Zero to Engineer program.

Zero to Engineer gave me an in-depth look at the entire IT industry and how to navigate it. For the first time in my life I had clarity and the vision needed to break into the IT industry. Timing was perfect too because Consumer Choice began letting multiple people go and I knew it was time to move on myself.

After completing the program, I landed an interview with the Toledo Public School District for a Network Admin position. Terry mentored me throughout the entire interview process and I was offered the job with a $57k/year salary. I’ve been in the role for a couple years now and manage the entire network infrastructure for the school district. I’m making a very comfortable salary of $69k/year now and it wouldn’t have been possible without the knowledge and mentorship I received throughout the Zero to Engineer program. I hope to level up as a Systems Engineer in the near future and become a consultant for the businesses in my local community.

Zero to Engineer gives students the training and experience that no one gives in tech education. It exposes students to every aspect of networking and equips them with the knowledge and tools necessary to break into the IT field.

People of Zero to Engineer: Keron Taylor

People of Zero to Engineer: Keron Taylor

I never thought I would say this, but breaking my wrist was a blessing in disguise. I was working as a Chemicals Operator at BASF; one of the world’s largest chemical companies. My job duties included driving fork lifts, unloading tankers, and running multiple chemical reactions, which constantly exposed my body to danger. To my surprise, what took everything away from me was cracking my wrist in a non-work related accident.

I was initially out of work for weeks, which turned into 6 months. My disability checks went from 100% of my pay to 65% and the chances of me going back to BASF dwindled.

My interest in IT pushed me towards studying for the CCNA. Unfortunately, I got overwhelmed and completely abandoned the thought of going into IT. One day as I was scrolling across Facebook, I came across Terry’s webinar and decided to enroll in the Zero to Engineer program. I had exhausted all of my options and thought I’d give ZTE a chance. I was working as a printer tech by day and focusing on the program at night. I was able to pass the CCENT with the knowledge I received from the Zero To Engineer modules.

By Module 4, I gained the confidence to apply for entry-level IT jobs and landed a contract position with Modis as an Operations Engineer at Google. During interviews I caught myself constantly thinking back to information I learned from ZTE. The lessons laid the foundation I needed to land the job. My job duties went from putting my body in harms way to adding devices onto networks and porting fiber into racks. My routine is incredibly flexible now and I’m constantly collaborating and working with employees across various teams.

I’m closely following the career blueprint Terry helped me develop and I’ll be updating him on my progress in 6 months. I’m working towards finishing the ZTE program and racking-up more hands on experience along the way. I’m happy that I get to spend more time with my family and make a living doing what I’m passionate about. So yes, you can say that breaking my wrist was a blessing in disguise.

From zero to Samsung Network Engineer in 18 months

From zero to Samsung Network Engineer in 18 months

He had been standing impatiently in line waiting for quite some time,  like everybody else on his side of the stage. It was hot and somewhat humid, the sun was glaring on his face and the dark outfit he was wearing from head to toe wasn’t helping in any way.

The crowd seemed very friendly, they cheered every time they heard a name—a little over the top in his opinion. He had a funny feeling. He seemed to know that after walking across the stage, things were not going to be as simple as going through a study guide and answering a list of questions.

That things were most likely going south for many of the twenty-somethings standing next to him. The crowd was aware of the crude reality of adult life, but they cheered for everyone anyway. He wondered why, but it didn’t matter, it was his turn. “Kevin Lee”, a voice said loud and clear.

He walked across the stage in front of the cheering crowd, counting every step of the way; as if his Fitbit wasn’t already doing that for him. He stretched his hand, grabbed it and walked off. Right in the middle, in big fancy bold letters, it read: Bachelor of Arts in Economics.

Kevin graduated in 2014 from Rutgers University. He completed one of the most challenging programs offered at the school. His family was very proud, of course. All those years of preparation and hard work had finally paid off. It was now time to capitalize on the skills he had developed.

He was looking to jumpstart a career full of intriguing challenges and opportunities. He had very high, but realistic expectations of himself and his career. He was very excited for growing as a person and as a professional. When he stepped off that stage with his diploma in his hands, he was full of ambitious goals for the future.

Nonetheless, less than three years after his graduation, he was not working in anything related to economics. He had spent so much time mastering econometrics and calculus. All the all-nighters he pulled off trying to understand different theories led to nothing. 

Right out of college, he jumped into a role as a project manager working for an interior design company. It was an amazing experience, but it wasn’t what he had envisioned—not much to do with economics. But a much better start compared to the struggles his classmates were facing. 

He wasn’t inspired by the company’s mission, and felt like project management wasn’t for him. So after 8 long months he decided to quit and do something where he could put his degree to use. He landed a job working as an accountant in a CPA office.

But once again, he found himself looking at the clock way too many times when he was at work; it was too repetitive. He learned a lot on the job, but two years into his career, he was considering leaving it all behind and starting from scratch. He wanted a challenging job. A job where he could tackle new, and big projects often and continuously grow his skill set. He began looking for alternatives, and found Terry Kim.

He learned about IT for the very first time and about the Zero to Engineer mentorship program. Especially the ever-changing nature of the IT industry, and how it always pushes people to develop their skills sets had intrigued him. He was very curious about all the different career avenues that IT could offer.

He immediately knew that he wanted to enroll. It was exactly what he had been looking for. Zero to Engineer could teach him the secret formula to jumpstart an IT career within months. It would take much less time compared to what it was going to take to get an associates degree at a local community college.

He committed to his decision and dove into the program. He followed all the advice he was given and executed on every homework assignment, only pausing to catch up on sleep. Lesson after lesson, he acquired a thorough understanding of the industry.

He received  a solid networking foundation through the lessons Terry instructed him to go over. And, he earned a couple of technical certifications along the way. He took great advantage of his one-on-one mentorship sessions, which he used to plan his career roadmap. He never doubted his decision of not pursuing a career related to his hard-earned economics degree.

Instead, he studied hard—as if this were the last chance he had to have an exciting and fulfilling future. He studied and studied, reaching out to the Zero to Engineer community every time he needed help with something. He made the most out of every minute of his mentor sessions.

It only took him 2 months to finish the entire program. He was ready. It was now time to put what he learned into use and break into the industry. But before, he needed to solve the hands-on experience problem. He needed to do it quickly—before he had second thoughts about leaving his college education on the shelf and pursuing a career in tech. 

Terry helped him evaluate the best way to break into the industry. At the time, he was living with his parents and wasn’t in serious need of earning an income. So, Terry suggested that he apply for internships to get experience handling real equipment.

This way, he could aim for a network engineering role right from the start. The only issue was that landing an internship to develop his skill set was going to be hard. There were often hundreds of applicants seeking one or two spots. He used one of Terry’s industry navigation tactics, to fix this issue.

He woke up early the next morning. He felt the same anxiety he had before when his name was called at his graduation ceremony. He got on his computer and reached out to dozens of people via LinkedIn asking to meet for coffee.

Each time, he would craft a well-thought out message, looking over every person’s profile and searching for common interests to add to the messages. This way, he could increase his odds of starting a conversation. No one, but one person replied to him. They met at a local coffee shop a few blocks down from where he was living at the time.

They spoke about trends, recent controversies, new technologies and the IT field in general. They ended up talking for over an hour. It was a thoughtful conversation full of occasional laughs here and there. Kevin walked away with a 3-month internship offer. Mission accomplished. During his internship, he learned about troubleshooting, ticketing, monitoring and reporting on new configurations.

Three months flew by. The end of his internship was approaching fast and he needed to capitalize on his experience. He took on LinkedIn once again and reached out to people asking for coffee. Shortly after ending his internship, he landed a role as a Network Engineer at a company called Coranet Corp. At Coranet, he installed, configured and deployed many access points and devices onto various networks.

Two years and a significant pay bump later, Kevin now works as a Network Engineer for Samsung on their renowned infrastructure team. He feels grateful and satisfied with his new career. He always feels challenged and is learning something new everyday. He is super happy with his job and is not looking to pursue any advanced certifications right now. His parents are still very proud of him.

Around two million people graduated college the same year as Kevin. Many of them are stuck in repetitive jobs or unemployed. Kevin was smart enough to admit that he had made a mistake when choosing economics as his major. And he did it quickly. He has now embarked on a new career, in an industry that never stops growing and changing.

Unlike other early students of Zero to Engineer, he didn’t know anything about IT. But this motivated him even more. At the time, the program was designed to help people who were already in IT. But Terry made it work out for him. He told Kevin what to study and where to go to find it.

Kevin literally went from Zero to Engineer in less than a year. Since he graduated from the program, Terry has added more content. It is now a complete solution for those who want a career in IT. Within months, anyone with motivation and drive can now become a network engineer.

Additionally, students who finish the program have the option of getting certified in-person; during a 5-day boot camp. In the bootcamp, student gain experience handling real world equipment. On the fifth day, they have the opportunity to earn the title of Full Stack Network Associate. 

Zero to Engineer is now offered in an online learning platform called NexGenT. Here, students can interact with other students, mentors and alumni. They can book one-on-one live mentor sessions. They can work on their own labs and even carry out their own full stack networking project. If Kevin ever needs help, he can reach out to the NexGenT community of students, alumni and mentors.

The difference between getting stuck and skyrocketing through the ranks of IT

The difference between getting stuck and skyrocketing through the ranks of IT

On a rainy Sunday afternoon back in 1986, a 5-year old boy stood motionless in front of a TV set. He watched attentively, but seemed frustrated—almost as if he were trying to make sense of the ever changing images and sounds that danced flawlessly right in front of him. He wondered and couldn’t seem to grasp why the black car he was watching so intensely on the screen was able to drive itself and talk like a human being.

It wasn’t a cartoon, nor had he seen anything like it in his entire life. All he knew was that people were only able to talk to one another. The car was a $100,000 black Pontiac Firebird Trans Am that had been customized to be featured on the Science Fiction TV show Knight Rider, starring David Hasselhoff.

It was meant to be a high-tech artificial intelligence-equipped vehicle capable of preventing accidents, driving itself and maintaining a human conversation (good ol’ science fiction as Elon Musk would say, right?). In the show, it’s purpose was to assist the main character as he fought crime and protected innocent people.

Next to Scott, the little boy, stood his grandfather, who couldn’t help but notice how his grandson’s eyes opened up a little more than usual staring at the car, and how he listened quietly whenever it spoke, almost as if it were softly whispering one of the world’s most precious secrets into his ear. On that rainy September afternoon of 1982, that little boy discovered his life’s true passion: technology.

His grandfather, Herbert, an experienced surgeon, had decided to immigrate to the U.S from the Philippines in the early 70’s after a colleague of his had referred him to a hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. He eventually started his own practice in America and was able to raise a family of seven with his dear wife Amparo.

Scott’s grandfather, Herbert

Most of their children had gone on to pursue professional careers in medicine, and that made him very proud. After all, the opportunity to mentor his children and share his passion with them was something he always cherished dearly.

That afternoon, however, as he watched little Scott focus his entire attention on the screen, he didn’t think for a second that Scott should be obligated to pursue medicine. Instead, he felt the need to nurture his grandson’s curiosity, even if that meant he would never become a doctor.

Herbert had been following technology for a while. He was very aware of the potential it had and had invested a considerable portion of his savings in Apple and IBM. Back in the 1970s before their stocks soared to places higher than where Philippe Petit was as he walked back and forth across the very top of the World Trade Center in 1974; on a steel wire thinner than one of little Scott’s arms.

Always looking out for his grandson, he knew that preparing ahead of time for technology’s imminent rise, would likely give him a competitive edge in the future. Herbert understood, having achieved success in his life, that hard work was arguably the best recipe for success—that nothing was going to be handed to Scott on a silver plate. So he nurtured his grandson’s enthusiasm, encouraged him to pursue his passion and motivated him to always keep learning as if he didn’t know anything at all.

Fast forward a few years to around the turn of the century. In high school, Scott enrolled in electronics, technical drafting and even took a computer repair class to stimulate his hunger for technology, which had remained just as vivid as when he first saw that black-talking car.

Laser-focused on his goal of pursuing a technical degree, he worked thoroughly on his skills to hit the ground running in college. This way, he would be able to make better use of his free time rather than watching it fly by dealing with the shock of not being well prepared for higher education.  

Scott enrolled in UNLV in the fall of 1999 and started pursuing a degree in Management of Information Systems. His freshmen year, he landed a side job answering phone calls as a call center support specialist for a small computer company, where he learned that he would need to get technical certifications if he wanted to have a career in IT.

His parents decided to separate around this time, forcing Scott to work full time to pay for his tuition because his mother couldn’t afford it. It took him 6 years to get his degree. But almost immediately after graduating in 2005, he became an Internet Technician for a medium-sized company called Priority Networks, where he worked installing and managing internet connectivity at big conventions for about 2 years.

Then, he became a Junior Network Engineer for a Cisco training certification boot camp for about 5 years, something along the lines of NexGenT but without the online platform. A little over seven years after leaving college he was able to become a Network Engineer for a medical company where, after some time in the role, he felt like he had reached the epitome of his career—he had hit a wall.

For all those years, Scott had been making the big mistake of putting the companies he had worked for ahead of his personal and professional growth. He would go as far as putting an extra ten hours a week to focus on troubleshooting, so that his companies didn’t have to hire additional personnel and thus, save money. His bosses loved him (but who wouldn’t?).

He had the work ethic, the motivation, the passion and was extraordinarily proactive when it came to solving problems. But he wasn’t growing. He believed that this was the best way of moving up in the industry, and he did. But it took a painfully long amount of time.

Looking out the window it seemed like other people moved much faster than him—like if he were running on a treadmill for hours while his peers walked on what seemed like frictionless ground. He knew he needed to invest his time on acquiring new skills rather than fixing problems and troubleshooting if he wanted to break free from his current situation and jump on new trends before it was too late.

But it wasn’t as simple as when he was starting out and could just get experience from anywhere. This time, he needed to get a specific kind of experience—he needed to learn the most in-demand skills of the moment and how to navigate through the industry much faster than before.

But he didn’t really know how. He felt stuck —similar to when he used to stand in front of the TV and make sense of the black self-driving car that could talk like a human, without even knowing how to go about it.

At that moment—he couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to be stuck in his position for years and years. He ran into the Zero to Engineer program while his motivation was quickly fading away. 

At the time, he already had over 10 years of experience so the Zero to Engineer program name wasn’t that appealing to him. Nevertheless, when he learned that the people behind it, Terry and Jacob, had worked for some of the top tech companies in the world as Systems Engineers, it sparked his interest. They had also successfully ran their own IT consulting firm, and had graduated over 1,000 engineers while serving as instructors for the U.S Air Force, and that’s when he realized that Zero to Engineer could give him what he had been looking for and he enrolled.

He learned about all the areas of networking and how to succeed in them. He became particularly interested in cybersecurity, a growing and promising field, and felt the desire to switch and pursue a career in it.

As he went through Zero to Engineer, Terry motivated and guided him to make the switch from networking to security, especially since Terry previously did it himself and went from being broke to becoming a Network Engineer making over 6 figures within 24 months. He revived Scott’s lifelong inner fire for learning new things, which he had been keeping to himself for the latest years of his career.

Shortly after completing the program, he became a Security Engineer for Hospital & Healthcare, a company with over 2,500 employees. He gets to work with multiple tools to address threat vulnerability, intelligence issues and manage firewalls, among other things.

His only regret is not running into Zero to Engineer when he was a freshman in college. He could have avoided wasting so much time making so many mistakes and not getting promoted faster, but this is not a problem anymore.

He now has a career plan, understands how the industry works, and knows exactly what to focus on to keep growing as an IT professional. And if it wasn’t enough, if he is ever hesitating or having doubts, he can rely on the NexGenT community of alumni, mentors and students for support. He won’t stop learning.

Currently, he’s working towards getting his CCNP Security and his CISSP. From there, he plans to become a Security Architect or Pre Sales Security Engineer. But he is very pleased and happy with his current position, which gives him the flexibility to spend more time with his wife, and their 4-year old daughter and 4-month old son.

Ultimately, he wants to be there for his children, and encourage them to pursue their talents and passion. Just like his grandfather Herbert did when he first saw him stare at that black-talking car on that rainy Sunday afternoon.